Lambert looks to the future for Villa

Aston Villa boss Paul Lambert feels the club are still "years away" from where they want to be - but has no doubt they are firmly heading in the right direction.

Paul Lambert, Aston Villa

Lambert is very much working on a long-term project at Villa, which began with his appointment in June 2012 and has seen a considerable revamping of the squad.

With line-ups lacking in Barclays Premier League experience and featuring a number of players in their early 20s, the midlands outfit finished 15th last term after spending much of the season in or around the drop zone.

There were some notable highs for Villa during the campaign, though, and things have started encouragingly this season.

Lambert, who has brought in six new signings this summer, has been delighted with his side's two performances so far in a 3-1 win at Arsenal and 2-1 defeat at Chelsea.

And he says his players are in confident mood heading into Saturday's home clash with Liverpool - another club where there is a definite sense of an ongoing project.

Asked about the way the two teams are progressing, Lambert said: "We have not got the same resources as Liverpool - you look at the spending Liverpool can do compared to ourselves and we can't do that.

"But what we have got is a great football club, a great fanbase behind us and we have a team that I think is proud to be here. I think that is vital for us.

"We are still years away from where we want to get to, but we are certainly getting there."

He added: "It is still early, but we have got a lot of confidence at the minute.

"The ones that were here last year have grown into it. They know what the league is like.

"The new ones are now part of that and will grow into it.

"But as a team they have come a really long way in a short space of time."

Liverpool appointed Brendan Rodgers as their manager around the same time that Lambert arrived at Villa.

The two men had previously been at Swansea and Norwich respectively, each enjoying success that had seen their club gain promotion to the Premier League in 2011 and then secure a mid-table finish a year later.

And Lambert has no doubt that Rodgers, who guided Liverpool to seventh last season, is building a strong Reds side.

Put to him that even without suspended striker Luis Suarez, the Merseysiders still have a team packed full of quality, Lambert said: "They have.

"I know Brendan really well. I get on with him really well back from the Norwich and Swansea days.

"He is a good guy and has a really good side."

Villa should have defender Ciaran Clark available for Saturday's game.

Clark was forced off in the first half of the loss at Chelsea on Wednesday with a head injury but is expected to be fit for Liverpool's visit to Villa Park, while midfielder Chris Herd could be in contention for a first appearance this term following his calf problem.

Defender Nathan Baker (ankle) remains a doubt and winger Charles N'Zogbia (Achilles) definitely misses out.

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